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Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
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Thumbnail of Sir William Osler (source)
Sir William Osler
(12 Jul 1849 - 29 Dec 1919)

Canadian physician, medical educator and author whose clinical teaching, research and personality strongly influenced medical practice, including encouraging a warmer bedside manner between doctors and their patients. He wrote Principles and Practice of Medicine (1892), one of the most successful textbooks in medical history.


Portrait of William Osler seated at desk - full body
William Osler (1905)
Portrait by Thomas C. Corner (source)
Books And Men

[Excerpt on the importance of general practitioners reading current literature.]

from an Address for the Dedication of the New Building of the Boston Medical Library (12 Jan 1901)

by Sir William Osler

A library … is a great catalyser, accelerating the nutrition and rate of progress in a profession.

For the general practitioner a well-used library is one of the few correctives of the premature senility which is so apt to overtake him. Self-centred, self-taught, he leads a solitary life, and unless his every-day experience is controlled by careful reading or by the attrition of a medical society it soon ceases to be of the slightest value and becomes a mere accretion of isolated facts, without correlation. It is astonishing with how little reading a doctor can practise medicine, but it is not astonishing how badly he may do it.

Not three months ago a physician living within an hour’s ride of the Surgeon-General’s Library brought to me his little girl, aged twelve. The diagnosis of infantile myxcedema required only a half glance. In placid contentment he had been practising twenty years in “Sleepy Hollow” and not even when his own flesh and blood was touched did he rouse from an apathy deep as Rip Van Winkle’s sleep. In reply to questions: No, he had never seen anything in the journals about the thyroid gland; he had seen no pictures of cretinism or myxcedema; in fact his mind was a blank on the whole subject. He had not been a reader, he said, but he was a practical man with very little time.

I could not help thinking of John Bunyan’s remarks on the elements of success in the practice of medicine.

“Physicians,” he says, “get neither name nor fame by the pricking of wheals or the picking out thistles, or by laying of plaisters to the scratch of a pin; every old woman can do this. But if they would have a name and a fame, if they will have it quickly, they must do some great and desperate cures. Let them fetch one to life that was dead, let them recover one to his wits that was mad, let them make one that was born blind to see, or let them give ripe wits to a fool—these are notable cures, and he that can do thus, if he dost thus first, he shall have the name and fame he deserves; he may lie abed till noon.”

Had my doctor friend been a reader he might have done a great and notable cure and even have given ripe wits to a fool! It is in utilizing the fresh knowledge of the journals that the young physician may attain quickly to the name and fame he desires.

Paragraph breaks and indent added for readability as a web page. The opening quote chosen by Webmaster to use as the heading comes from the final paragraph. Text from 'Books and Men', The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (17 Jan 1901), 144, No. 3, 60. Quote from p.61. (source)

William Osler quote Two sorts of doctors
Candidate for medical degree being examined in the subject of “Bedside Manner” — Punch (22 Apr 1914) (source)

See also:
  • Science Quotes by Sir William Osler.
  • 12 Jul - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Osler's birth.
  • William Osler - context of quote “Two sorts of doctors” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • William Osler - context of quote “Two sorts of doctors” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • William Osler: A Life in Medicine, by Michael Bliss. - book suggestion.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton


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